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Trapped bridge workers watch in horror… a deafening ‘earthquake’… then total collapse in just FOUR seconds: Minute by heart-pounding minute, the first full account of the Baltimore boat crash disaster

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Soon after 1am on Tuesday morning, a 985ft container ship smashed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, destroying the structure entirely.

More than 30,000 vehicles travel over the bridge every day and the port it guards is the ninth busiest in America, handling $80 billion of foreign cargo each year.

As of publication, at least six people were presumed dead, making it the first fatal US boat-bridge collision in over 20 years.

Here DailyMail.com gives the first full account of how the catastrophe unfolded in devastating minute-by-minute detail…

Tuesday, March 19

The nine-year-old container ship ‘Dali’ arrives in New York from Panama.

The giant vessel is made from high-strength steel and is powered by one engine and propeller. It’s owned by the Singapore-based Grace Ocean and chartered by Denmark’s Maersk.

The giant vessel is made from thick, high-strength steel and is powered by one engine and one propeller. It¿s owned by the Singapore-based Grace Ocean and chartered by Denmark¿s Maersk.

The giant vessel is made from thick, high-strength steel and is powered by one engine and one propeller. It’s owned by the Singapore-based Grace Ocean and chartered by Denmark’s Maersk.

Soon after 1am on Tuesday morning, the Dali smashed into Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, destroying the structure entirely.

Soon after 1am on Tuesday morning, the Dali smashed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, destroying the structure entirely.

Saturday, March 23

Dali sails to Baltimore via Virginia and docks in the Seagirt Marine Terminal, near Point Breeze.

It’s 20-strong crew disembark and are greeted by a local charity who act as a ‘friendly face’ for the foreign sailors – all from India.

Sunday, March 24

Dali’s crew stock up on snacks and toiletries at local branches of Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

Monday, Monday 25

Tomorrow, they will set off on a 28-day voyage to Sri Lanka.

The voyage route has had to be been modified. Dali will now sail around South Africa to avoid Houthi rebel activity in the Red Sea.

Tuesday, March 26

12.45am

Dali sets sail in Baltimore with a local specially trained pilot onboard. (This is standard procedure in ports, as locals know the marinas complicated hazards best.)

The weather is unremarkable. There is little to no wind.

12.46am 

Construction workers from Brawner Builders are working a nightshift on the Francis Scott Key Bridge (built in 1977 for $60million and named after the writer of America’s national anthem, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’).

They’re pouring concrete to fill potholes along the 1.6mile-long structure.

12.56am

Dali turns out of the port and heads southeast towards the bridge and sea beyond.

It motors straight ahead, reaching speeds of around 8.1 knots (9mph).

1.24am

The construction workers are taking their lunchbreak on the bridge.

The Dali approaches and slows to around 7 knots (8pmh).

In a suspected electrical failure, the lights on the ship flicker out and plunge the vessel into darkness.

1.24 AM: In a suspected electrical failure, the lights on the ship flicker out and plunge the vessel into darkness.

1.24 AM: In a suspected electrical failure, the lights on the ship flicker out and plunge the vessel into darkness. 

1.26am

The Dali suddenly veers southwest, heading for one of the Key Bridge’s main pillar.

The local pilot on the ship issues a mayday alert, warning they have lost engine power and are unable to steer.

Experts say workers and cars on the bridge wouldn’t have been able to hear the ship’s whistle.

Bridge staff hear the mayday over their radios and urgently start closing the road. There isn’t time to warn the construction workers.

The workers turn to see the ship heading towards them, its lights flickering, but assume it will pass straight under.

The Dali’s engine appears to restart on an emergency generator before cutting out again immediately.

1.27am

A plume of thick black smoke billows from the top of the Dali as it careens towards the bridge.

Unknowing vehicles speed across and clear the bridge with seconds to spare.

1.27am

The Dali collides with a bridge support pillar. It takes just four seconds for the entire structure to crumble.

The bridge splits into three sections, bending in half at the center and collapsing into the water.

A huge wave barrels inland up the river as the bridge and road hit the surface.

Sparks and smoke pour from the wreck.

A bridge official sends a desperate radio message: ‘The whole bridge just fell down. Start, start whoever… everybody. The whole bridge just collapsed!’

1.29am

Broken shards of bridge sink beneath the water and smoke obscures the Dali. The Coast Guard deploys three response vessels.

Calls pour in to emergency services. People are suspected to be trapped in the water.

1.30am

Giorgio Comninos is awoken in his bed. He lives in nearby and hears a deafening rumble. He assumes the noise is an earthquake or low-flying military aircraft.

1.27 AM: A plume of thick black smoke billows from the top of the Dali as it careens towards the bridge.

1.27 AM: A plume of thick black smoke billows from the top of the Dali as it careens towards the bridge.

1.35am

Baltimore City Police are told about a partial bridge collapse with victims possibly in the water. The Fire Department are dispatched for a water rescue.

1.50am

The first fire team arrives on scene and reports that there were ‘likely multiple people’ in the water.

1.59am

News of the incident begins to trickle out as the Maryland Transportation Authority (MTA) posts on X that the Key Bridge has been closed ‘for incident’.

3.07am

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott is awoken and heads straight to the scene.

5.08am

US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweets: ‘Rescue efforts remain underway and drivers in the Baltimore area should follow local responder guidance on detours and response.’

6.03am

Maryland Governor Wes Moore declares a state of emergency and requests federal support from the White House.

6.10am

Family members of the bridge construction workers gather at the Royal Farms convenience store near the entrance to the bridge.

They tell reporters that they haven’t yet received any official guidance on where their loved ones are.

6.30am

Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace holds the first press conference on the emergency, stating that two people have been rescued from the water so far.

One person has been rushed to a nearby trauma center in very serious condition.

Wallace says they are looking for at least seven others.

Rescue crews have been using suing sonar to search both below and on the wreck of the bridge as well as on the deck of the ship.

Vehicles – including a tractor and several cars – have been detected deep in the water.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott describes the incident as ‘an unthinkable tragedy’.

1.35 AM: Baltimore City Police are told about a partial bridge collapse with victims possibly in the water. The Fire Department are dispatched for a water rescue.

1.35 AM: Baltimore City Police are told about a partial bridge collapse with victims possibly in the water. The Fire Department are dispatched for a water rescue.

5.08 AM: US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweets, 'Rescue efforts remain underway and drivers in the Baltimore area should follow local responder guidance on detours and response.'

5.08 AM: US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweets, ‘Rescue efforts remain underway and drivers in the Baltimore area should follow local responder guidance on detours and response.’

6.40am

Experts fear that anyone in the water will likely have frozen to death.

6.58am

The US Navy confirms they haven’t yet received a request for support but that they are ready to assist if required.

7.00am

As the sun rises, the true extent of the destruction becomes evident.

The bridge’s warped steel frame rests perilously on top of the front of the Dali, with multiple cargo containers crushed and knocked over.

7.21am

A second news conference is held. Maryland Secretary of Transportation Paul Wiedefeld confirms that a location has been set up for family members of the missing.

7.47am

Singaporean company Synergy Marine Group – which manages the Dali – confirms that all crew are safe, including the two pilots. No injuries are reported.

A few minutes later they say that an ‘experienced captain’ had been on board when the ship crashed.

8.29am

A no-fly zone is established around the bridge by the Federal Aviation Authority, forbidding drones from flying in the area for fear that they will hinder rescue efforts.

9.23am

The National Transportation Safety Board launches an investigation into the collapse of the bridge.

9.53am

A third news conference confirms that, thanks to the Dali’s mayday signal, ‘many of the vehicles were stopped before they got onto the bridge, which saved lives.’

9.58am

Mayor Scott officially declares a state of local emergency. It will remain in place for 30 days.

12.06pm

A construction worker for Brawner Builders, James Krutzfeldt, tells reporters that he still doesn’t know where his colleagues are. He thinks fondly of one of the missing men as a ‘work dad’.

12.21pm

It’s revealed that many of the workers on the bridge were new fathers, having welcomed babies in the past year.

Calls from co-workers to the missing men’s mobiles go straight to voicemail.

12.49pm

President Biden holds a White House press conference and pledges that the federal government will pay reconstruction costs.

He owns a home in nearby Delaware and says he has personally crossed over the bridge ‘many, many times’.

12.21 PM: It's revealed that many of the workers on the bridge were new fathers, having welcomed babies in the past year. Calls from co-workers to the missing men's mobiles go straight to voicemail.

12.21 PM: It’s revealed that many of the workers on the bridge were new fathers, having welcomed babies in the past year. Calls from co-workers to the missing men’s mobiles go straight to voicemail.

12.49 PM: President Biden holds a White House press conference and pledges that the federal government will pay reconstruction costs.

12.49 PM: President Biden holds a White House press conference and pledges that the federal government will pay reconstruction costs.

1.20pm

Meteorologists warn that the approaching low tide will hinder rescue efforts. There is also a full moon spring tide which can cause dangerous rip currents.

2.27pm

Officials now confirm they are looking for six people.

Locals gather along the shoreline and watch for survivors as rescue efforts continue in the harbor.

3.00pm

Experts begin to examine footage of the crash and say there were clearly serious mechanical issues with the ship.

Master Mariner, Captain Kurt Hallier, tells DailyMail.com that ‘bad fuel that clogged up the fuel lines’ could be responsible for the apparent power outage.

6.00pm

Rescue efforts continue to grow, with crews arriving from across the country.

More than 50 divers are searching the icy waters for survivors.

7.30pm

The six missing are presumed dead. The Coast Guard ends its active search mission and announces a ‘different phase’.

‘We do not believe that we are going to find any of these individuals still alive,’ they say.

Five cars and a cement truck have been found in the water using sonar and infrared technology.

Conditions are now too dangerous for rescue divers. The search effort is suspended.

8.00pm

The Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reveals that two of their nationals were working on the bridge when it collapsed.

Wednesday, March 27

6.00am

The search resumes, divers re-enter the water, and the family of Miguel Luna say he is one of the missing men.

The father of three, from El Salvador, has lived in New York for 19 years.

A second man is identified as 38-year-old Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval – a married father of two from Honduras who has lived in the United States for 18 years.

7.30 PM: Conditions are now too dangerous for rescue divers. The search effort is suspended.

7.30 PM: Conditions are now too dangerous for rescue divers. The search effort is suspended. 

7.00am

An investigative crew boards the Dali and recover the ship’s ‘black box’ which holds crucial information for investigators about what went wrong.

The Chilean Navy confirms the Dali was held in Chile briefly in June last year due to a propulsion issue.

Chilean authorities inspected the Dali and found a ‘deficiency’ for ‘propulsion and auxiliary machinery — gauges, thermometers, etc’ according to records seen by CNN.

The ship was checked again in September 2023 by the US Coast Guard in New York and no deficiencies were found.

3.00pm

Baltimore port worker Julie Mitchell tells reporters that the Dali had been experiences power issues in the two days before the crash.

‘They were having serious power outages… they had a severe electrical problem,’ Mitchell says. ‘It was total power failure, loss of engine power, everything.’



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